Fairy Fencer F ADF: Sights and Sounds

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Fairy Fencer F and its Advent Dark Force counterpart represent an interesting melting pot of influences.

We’ve already talked about how the gameplay includes influences from Compile Heart’s own Neptunia series, and how the narrative includes influences from classic JRPGs of yore, but Fairy Fencer F’s diverse background is perhaps most apparent when it comes to its audio-visual aesthetic.

Featuring concept art by Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy fame, character designs by Tsunako of Neptunia fame and contributions to the soundtrack from longtime Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and his band Earthbound Papas, Fairy Fencer F certainly has some impressively heavyweight talent behind it.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Compile Heart games, as we’ve previously discussed, don’t exactly follow the mould of the stereotypical JRPG. However, this doesn’t stop them from having a strong sense of worldbuilding.

You may not be able to freely wander the whole world in a Compile Heart game as you can do in a more open-world adventure, but physically representing something isn’t the only way to give the player a feeling of time and place. You can also do it through the writing.

And this is exactly how Compile Heart builds its worlds, both in its popular Neptunia series and in its outlier titles such as Omega Quintet and Fairy Fencer F. The latter, in particular, demonstrates that the company is more than capable of building a convincing world with an interesting mythology using relatively minimal resources.

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Root Letter: Eleven Letters, Eight People, One Truth

Kadokawa Games’ Root Letter, first in their new Kadokawa Games Mystery series, quietly snuck out onto the market at the end of October, just four months after its Japanese release.

The proposed series is set to be a collection of visual novel-cum-adventure game hybrids for PlayStation platforms that feature real-world locations, artwork from Love Plus character designer Mino Taro and a cast of fictional actresses who will play different roles in each game. The plan, presumably, is to create a series of adventures that, while distinct in their own right in terms of story, will have numerous thematic and stylistic similarities throughout that make them feel like “part of a set”.

So far, all we have to judge the series on is its inaugural installment Root Letter, but fortunately it’s a very strong start indeed, eminently worthy of your time if you’ve ever enjoyed the Ace Attorney or Danganronpa games.

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Negligee: Pretty Girls in Sexy Pants

With a title like “Negligee”, you probably think you know what you’re getting — and in this case, you’d probably be right. Mostly.

Negligee is a short visual novel from the UK-based (but heavily Japan-inspired) developer Dharker Studio, whose previous work has included Beach Bounce, Summer Fling and Club Life, among others. To date, the team has put out works encompassing both “slice of life” romance stories and more fantastic, outlandish tales incorporating magic and sci-fi. Negligee falls very much into the former category by being about as down-to-earth as you can get.

But is it just an excuse to depict its heroines in a variety of revealing lingerie, or is there something more to it? Read on, and let’s take a closer look.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Anatomy of an RPG

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Compile Heart RPGs have a very clear sense of identity; they’re instantly recognisable.

Everything from their overall aesthetic to the structure of the game contributes to this distinctive identity, and it’s a formula that’s been working for them for a number of years now. Unsurprisingly, Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force is no exception to this rule, albeit with a few twists here and there to make it distinct from the company’s flagship Neptunia series.

Today we’re going to look at just how Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force works as a game, and how it differs from what people might regard as more “conventional” role-playing games.

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Fairy Fencer F ADF: Introduction and History

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Idea Factory’s label Compile Heart has repeatedly proven over the years that they’re not afraid to look back on their past work and try to improve it.

As a result of this highly iterative development process, we’ve seen a significant and dramatic improvement in the overall quality of their games over the course of the last five or six years.

The poster child for Compile Heart’s improvement over time is the prolific Neptunia series, which has gone from being niche-interest to a highly successful, well-regarded franchise with instantly recognisable characters.

But the Neptunia games aren’t the only ones Compile Heart wants to improve. They’ve also gone back to revisit their PlayStation 3 title Fairy Fencer F for a new generation of consoles, and the results are impressive, with Fairy Fencer F: Advent Dark Force being arguably Compile Heart’s most significant revamp to date.

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Supipara: A Tale of the Greatest of Smiles

[Editor’s note: as of February 2019, it appears that unfortunately minori is ceasing operations. This article has been left in its original form as published in October 2016 to preserve the original intention behind the series, even if it will likely never happen now.]

minori’s Supipara, a collection of five visual novels, the first of which has been localised by MangaGamer, is in an interesting situation. It’s a series that doesn’t quite exist yet.

As the series microsite notes, Supipara is an ambitious undertaking for both developer minori and localiser MangaGamer; while the first two chapters currently exist in Japan (albeit as a single game), and the first of these has already been localised into English, the future of the series is largely up to visual novel enthusiasts.

Rather than relying on crowdfunding as developers such as Frontwing and localisation outfits such as Sekai Project have done in the past, minori and MangaGamer are instead ploughing the combined profits from Supipara’s first chapter and science fiction love story eden* directly back into the series, with various milestones allowing the companies to continue their collaboration and — hopefully, anyway — see the Supipara project finally brought to complete fruition.

Having finished reading the first chapter of Supipara last night, I would very much like to see the remaining chapters become a reality. And if you’re a fan of visual novels, checking out Supipara’s first chapter is an eminently pleasing way to spend twelve or so hours of your life.

Why? Read on.

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Gal*Gun: Sights and Sounds

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Gal*Gun Double Peace is memorable for a whole lot of different reasons: its contribution to the revival of rail shooters, its silly but touching plot and its striking audio-visual aesthetic.

Unlike many other anime-inspired games, the art and music of Gal*Gun are not the work of particularly well-known or established names — but there’s some decent pedigree there if you take the time to look into things a bit more deeply.

So let’s do just that, shall we?

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Gal*Gun: Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Gal*Gun Double Peace is about much more than just shooting pretty girls until they fall over in quasi-orgasmic states: it’s actually got a pretty decent narrative, too.

Technically, it’s got several narrative threads, and in true dating sim/visual novel tradition, it’s only by playing them all that you’ll get a full understanding of everything that is going on and the context of each of the characters.

As you might expect from the general tone of the game as a whole, Gal*Gun’s narrative errs on the lighter side of things, but that certainly doesn’t preclude it from exploring a variety of interesting themes along the way.

Let’s dive in and take a look.

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Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire: Exactly What it Sounds Like

You have to respect a game that is up-front about what it is; one that says to you “we both know why you’re here.”

Japanese developers and localisers — particularly in the visual novel sector, and especially when it comes to nukige, or games where the main point is sexual content rather than narrative — are good at this sort of frank honesty; browsing, for example, MangaGamer’s (emphatically not safe for work) front page reveals titles such as Boob Wars: Big Breasts vs Flat ChestsBusty Maid: Creampie Heaven and the gloriously self-aware Eroge: Sex and Games Makes Sexy Games.

Devleoper-publisher Zoo Corporation is no stranger to this practice, either, with its various labels Norn, Cybele, Miel and Yumesta each putting out a variety of games with fairly self-explanatory titles. Prior to 2015, the only Zoo title we’d seen in the West was 1994 puzzler BreakThru! — which Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov had his name attached to despite having very little to do with — but all that changed with the release of Mahjong Pretty Girls Battle in January of that year.

A new series was born, with Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire being its latest installment. And, you know, it’s pretty good, particularly considering its ludicrously cheap price at the time of writing.

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